A great second album powered by an edgy, nervous hunger.
Mischa Pearlman 2011-10-04
Alongside Frightened Rabbit and The Twilight Sad, We Were Promised Jetpacks are part of the powerful Scottish indie triumvirate that – until the Rabbits recently moved to Atlantic Records – were all signed to FatCat Records. Jetpacks, however, were (and still are) the babies of the bunch, with just one album to their name and – with them barely out of their teens – a significantly lower average age.
It’s been a little over two years since the release of their acclaimed (and astonishing) debut LP, These Four Walls, in which time, it seems, the band have had time to work out a suitably impressive path to take. Musically, the ghost of their former selves is still present on this second album – in Adam Thompson’s distinctive Scottish brogue; in the white noise that washes through the intense crescendos of songs such as Through the Dirt and the Gravel and Boy in the Backseat; in the jittery, on-edge guitars that drive these 10 songs; and in the desperate, angst-fuelled (but not filled) lyrics that intensify the record’s emotional resonance. But it sounds so much more raw and harsh, more real and vulnerable.
There’s a prolonged moment, too, of delicate sympathy on the brittle Sore Thumb, which, at its start, strips back the levels of feedbacked noise to a piano-based riff that wouldn’t sound out of place on an Explosions in the Sky album. It’s almost two-and-a-half minutes until the vocals – distanced, dislocated and discombobulated – kick in, after which a frenzy of feedback sends the song stratospheric. It all makes the slow-motion wind-down, in its muted, weakened state, that much more powerful.
More than anything, In the Pit of the Stomach is powered by an edgy, nervous hunger – a sense of being on the verge of getting exactly what you want but full in the knowledge and with the expectation that it won’t ever actually happen. It’s the sound of perpetually chasing a dream, of a nightmare that won’t go away and of the ache that the lacuna that loss (through heartbreak or death or both) leaves you with and never lets you forget. It’s also the sound of boys becoming men, of a band most assuredly coming of age.